If you’d like your latest recordings reviewed, send hard copies to T Max/ The Noise, 40R Highland Ave, #219 Salem, MA 01970.
Following a stroke that left both his left hand and vocal chords paralyzed, Corin Ashley made his return with Broken Biscuits. No stranger to the music scene, Ashley has toured with many well-known musicians such as Frank Turner and Dave Davies of The Kinks. The album opens with “Little Crumbles” which features typical rock elements of heavy guitars and distinct drumming.
“Broken Biscuits #3” takes a different approach with more of an indie rock style with some electronic components. The song is much more unique than some of the other tracks, stylistically and vocally. At only a minute and a half in length, the fast-paced tempo of the instruments paired with Ashley’s calming vocals is quite enjoyable.
Some of the tracks are slower, such as “Magpie Over Citadel.” Supported by only a guitar, Ashley’s vocals are the main focus. With some backing vocals, the song is much more relaxed than the previous tracks. As more instruments join in, the style grows to fit nicely with the other songs that have a heavier sound.
“Broken Biscuit #6” is more reminiscent of the opening track in its guitar style and loud vocals. The contrast in sounds and musical elements makes this album feel very fresh and intricate without feeling overdone. Every sound has a purpose and adds to the feeling that Ashley evokes.
Utilizing more of a slow drum beat and cymbals, “Junior Partner” has a strong jazz vibe where, again, the vocals are more prevalent. You would never know he had injured his vocal chords by listening to him sing, his voice sounds experienced and composed throughout.
Broken Biscuits is a strong album from Corin Ashley with an upbeat mood and a variety of sounds, sure to bring some light to anyone who listens to it. (Kathryn Leeber)
Nowadays, there is always a serious impediment to making your reputation as a singer-songwriter. Namely, that you will be compared, usually unfavorably, to your many much more well-known predecessors. However, on more than one track, Alex Brewer, who is based on Cape Cod, is the exception that proves the rule. For example, “There Oughta Be a Way” is a witty, erudite patter song presented in a deadpan manner which favorably evokes (without sounding at all like) the young and playful Bob Dylan. “John Kelly” gives us a soupcon of the seriousness of John Prine, as well as something else which belongs inimitably to Brewer, due entirely to his ability to get inside the mind of a math prodigy who comes to a bad end. “Provincetown” is an irresistibly witty song all the way through: “Sodomy is not for me/ But Sodom sure is fun.” This is an album with a great deal to like. The guitar picking throughout is also damn fine. Highly recommended. (Francis DiMenno)
The Rhinestone Busboy EP
Imagine Woody Guthrie singing heartfelt relationship songs that are bit twisted – kinda funny – not ha ha funny – subtle clever twisted lyrics that don’t end up where you’d expect. The production is simple – kinda hidden with three guitars at times flowing together but never sounding complicated. That’s what Jake McKelvie cleverly put into this CD. Even the cover art matches the overall sounds with a cartoon image rearview of a hatted man sitting on a couch by himself watching a TV show called The Rhinestone Busboy – open pizza box sharing the floor with his guitar leaning against the wall. The press sheet that came along with the CD calls it “cowboy music for the next generation – the one not getting out so much.” It might be worth checking out Jake’s punk band The Countertops – they’re not on this disc, but if they are anywhere near as good as this they gotta be great. Probably the most refreshing CD I’ve heard in the last ten years. (T Max)
Beta Motel is from Providence. they have the classic noisy Providence 1990’s sound, but you can dance, robot, dance! Someone folded up a map of time and mixed up the ’80s and the ’90s and got this incredible slab of pulsating dance frenzy. What do you like? Devo? Cars? Kraftwerk? Human League? No, you like Beta Motel now. You love them! I want you to open up your windows and scream at the top of your lungs, I’m happy as hell and I’m going to listen to Beta Motel! Or maybe you can just by the album and relax with it soothing out of your stereo. Yeah, do that. This was done at Radar Recordings and sounds like a million bucks, which makes sense because these guys always look like a million bucks, too. (Eric Baylies)
Keep the Edge Records
The frontman is under 30, but the music on the record (replete with horn section) might well have been recorded in 1975, when Bruce Springsteen’s overblown production Born to Run was burning its way up the charts. Unlike Springsteen, however, the vocals here are forever hitting the red needle towards the heartfelt; there is no subtlety in the lyrics; there is little novelty in most of the tunes, and the overall effect is a bit disconcerting, as though every trauma the singer has experienced is world-shaking: from the murder of John Lennon to the death of his three best friends to his inability to either live with or without his girlfriend. This grievous overdramatizing and lack of proportion makes this entire project somewhat less than pleasurable to listen to. Asack’s backing band, The Noisemakers, are creditable, and capable of a brisk boogie shuffle, as on their cover of the Neighborhoods’ “Arrogance.” A certain subset of rock fan may well find palatable all the weltschmerz seemingly extruding from every fibre of the singer’s being. Strangely enough, the penultimate song, the barn-burning “Last Night” promises better things to come and is the one number I can relate to with unalloyed pleasure – perhaps because it is a production extravaganza and something of a tour de force, taken at a frenetic pace, which doesn’t come across as either overdramatic or facile. And the bonus track, a letter-perfect tongue in cheek cover of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” isn’t any too shabby either. (Francis DiMenno)
THE JENNIFER TEFFT BAND
Cutting For Stone
Jennifer sings with feminine grit in her alt pop rock songs. Powerful, assertive vocals singing self-composed songs of protest and music with a message. She sings and plays guitar with her band John Parrillo (splendid lead and finger- picking guitar), Jeff St. Pierre (bass), Phil Antoniades (drums) and Carolyn Pae (backing vocals), who play with an ominous feel to their sound. This provides the perfect foil for Tefft’s superb singing and the messages behind the punchy alt/ pop/ rock music and vibe. This is her fifth CD and first release in ten years. Before that Jennifer started out playing for change in the subway tunnels and streets of Cambridge. My favorite cuts are the radio friendly opener “Roller Coaster,” “Cooler Than You,” the angry protest song “Silence,” about people who use silence as a weapon, and the sparse acoustic ballad “Air,” where I really dig when her exceptional voice reaches those high notes. The other ballads, “Let Me Be,” “Too Late,” and “Breathe,” that are powerful, sultry and assertive, also shine. All the Kickstarter supporters are listed and thanked on the back of the CD too; which is pretty cool. I really like this music a lot and so will you. (A.J. Wachtel)
EP X 3
Far Corners used to be a New Mexico based band. When guitarist and singer Justin moved to Rhode Island, he kept the name and got a new rhythm section. This is an amazing record. It reminds me of Future Of The Left, Wire, Pere Ubu and Crispy Ambulance. The album closer “Pressure Disease” is a like a time machine to take you both to the future and the past at the same time, maybe one channel for each, I’m not sure I didn’t learn about time travel in Mixology class, but I do know one thing: this is one of the best things I’ve heard out of little Rhodey in a long time. (Eric Baylies)
Flies Through The Dark
With heavy jazz elements and vocal effects, Matt Fraza creates a nostalgic, classic rock sound. The use of the harmonica and melodic electric guitar support Fraza’s vocals. Admittedly, the vocals do not sound the strongest and the clear effects on his voice feel forced.
The lyrics tend to create a story and “I Don’t Want It” sounds like Fraza is just talking to the listener with some instruments supporting him. The instruments are very reflective of songs one would classify as classic rock, but there does not seem to be too much modernity in his songs.
At times, the EP feels a bit bland, at least vocally. “Deep” focuses mostly on Fraza’s voice, which fall a bit flat in front of the calm guitar work. The emotion in his voice is there, it just needs to be brought to the surface.
“Drugs” is a better track, evident of the potential for a more passionate song. This song sees a heavier sound with honest lyrics about Fraza’s friends supposedly dying due to drugs.
The drums are a crucial component of Fraza’s sound and are varied throughout. “Circle” has a stronger element of the cymbals and this adds some distinction between the other tracks.
With strong instrumentation courtesy of electric guitars and cymbal-heavy drums, Flies Through The Dark provides a solid classic rock sound. (Kathryn Leeber)
Demos From Crisis
Better known as a member of the Walker Brothers Band, Kevin Wall has shared three demos from a promising full-length project. “I’m Not Waiting” comes across as the kind of glum Americana pioneered by Green on Red and suchlike. “Anywhere But Here” partakes of the sort of heartfelt soul shouting reminiscent of singers such as Luther Ingrtam on “If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to be Right.” “More of You” provides us with a sample of the kind of upbeat Soul music which Sam and Dave were so adept at summoning up on tracks like “Soul Man.” I’m not suggesting that any of these songs are derivative, but I am simply seeking to locate and label them within familiar genres. The three songs offered up here are remarkably well done, and I look forward to the full album. (Francis DiMenno)
WHAT ABOUT NAOMI?
Don’t be fooled by the 7 track listing; this EP from What About Naomi? is filled with some lengthy songs, some entirely instrumental and others with vocals.
“The Benefit of One” is an easy-going electronic track with rhythmic drumming and funky sounds that support the various guitar sounds. Just about 15 minutes in length, this is one of the longest songs on the EP. It is a fairly repetitive track, but still enjoyable as background music.
“Heart in a Sheath” has a very similar sound, one that is heavily influenced by electronic components, almost in a EDM style. This track is more upbeat and with a high-tempo, contrasting their other more ambient tracks, as the band themselves describes them.
While the songs do have a similar sound overall, the differences are what make the EP so complex. Listeners can really hear each individual component and they really bring all of the tracks together. Some are more mellow than others, but that is what the band is going for.
One of the calmer tracks is “Nocturnal Driveby,” the longest song at 16 minutes. There is a slow build-up with relaxed sounds to support the fast-paced drumming. The song progressively builds its pace by adding more sounds and it really works for this one.
The last track, “Somebody Else’s Fool” features vocals from Phil Fleming and is the only track with lyrics. Although the dry vocals match the futuristic sound of the back tracks, they do feel a bit out of place and unnecessary, especially since the other songs do not have vocals. (Kathryn Leeber)
Offworld is a five-piece hard rock band from Boston with progressive touches thrown in. They remind me of the less commercial Queensryche material, but if they had a female singer. This is kind of futuristic metal, with a nod to the music of 30 years ago. The production on this album, by Jon Evans in Orleans, MA, is really out of this world. It was mixed in Brooklyn by Joel Hamilton of New Bedford and Barrington’s Glazed Baby. My trip in the way back machine is further completed by finding out that Kreg and David are from the late Cape Cod band Earshot, one of my favorites a couple of decades back. This time machine goes forward and back! Did I mention that it is also a concept album about aliens and clones? Of course it is! (Eric Baylies)
Right off the bat, Mailman Carl starts with a two-minute long guitar solo, otherwise known as the opening track “Panic Attack.” I never thought a song composed entirely of a guitar and some effects could be enjoyable, but Mailman Carl proves it most definitely is.
“Phrygia” slows things down a bit with a simpler guitar in another instrumental track. Even with a much different feel and sound, it is just as emotional and intricate as the first song. Instrumental songs can be hit or miss, but this band is incredible at experimenting with sounds that somehow bring the whole EP together.
Introducing some jazz elements, “Like Flies” features a variety of drums with a mellow guitar. Vocals are introduced and lead singer Paul Yu’s calming voice pairs well with the smooth instruments.
“Wicked Jade” is more of a typical rock song, albeit it does feel more acoustic than most rock normally does. The vocals and the instruments feel a bit forced, with an acoustic guitar backed by an electric guitar. There is a little too much going on, but the effort is still appreciated.
Mailman Carl’s style is laidback, taking inspiration from many genres and they do an excellent job of that. The instrumental tracks are some of the better songs, as the combinations of sounds blends quite nicely.
Although the vocals are not the strongest, the emotion behind Yu’s voice is evident. The supporting instruments shine through in all of the tracks, even simple ones like “5 Minute Seasons.” With a simple acoustic guitar, the song feels like it is telling a story, and convey such strong emotions with one instrument, which is so difficult to do. (Kathryn Leeber)
Tiny Diamond is a trio of women from Providence who take turns singing and switching instruments like And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead used to do. Sometimes you put on a record for a few measures and your like, yup, I know what this is going to be and where there coming from, there will be no surprises from here on out. This is not one of those cases! Sometimes the music is about to take you off a cliff like Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth or Sunburned Hand of The Man. Suddenly, you are on a peaceful magic carpet ride floating softly next to the base of the waterfall, and you hear angels singing to you, or at least Tiny Diamond are, anyway. There are shades of the Dream Academy and Throwing Muses here too. Something for everyone, or at least all the late night college radio dj’s in your life. This is fantastic. (Eric Baylies)
Laura has a great voice and is a very soulful singer. Sorta like a white Aretha Frankin and the horns in her band give the music a very Memphis sound. In fact, she sings two different kinds of Americana ballads, one is smooth and the other has more twang. Both are great. Love Lead is her third album and first in eight years. This singer/ songwriter is a Berklee grad and to back her up she uses an all-star band from Nashville. For smooth current country you would hear at the Grand Ol’ Opry, check out “Traffic Light,” “Bird Song,” “Brave,” “You’re The One” co-written by local legend Larry Luddecke, “Marksman,” Lone Wolf” and the closing cut “Midlife.” These tunes are full of pure passion that sometimes borders on spiritual; the power and preaching similar to the Queen of Soul. For more twang listen to “Better Man,” “Judas Kiss,” and “Rockin’ A Baby.” Great stuff. Great voice. Emmy Lou Harris and Judy Collins also influence Vecchione as evident respectively on “Bird Song” and the opener “Keep Knockin’, ” both of which really showcase her stunning singing. The title song, “Love Lead” is a 6/8 gospel anthem about keeping the faith during trying times. Moving music by this big time balladeer. To hear what I am talking about go to her record release party at TCAN in Natick on May 13 where all the money will benefit the Family Promise MetroWest non- profit helping families move from homelessness to independence. A voice you want to hear. (A.J. Wachtel)
Sore Eros is a psyche band from Northampton. They have been around in one form or another for over a decade and have created, refined, and perfected their own take on psychedelia. Some of the music is pretty like a waterfall on an august night, at other times the acid trip gets a little heavier. They remind me at times of Donovan or Syd Barret, or even XTC’s alter ego The Dukes Of Stratosphear. There’s something in the water around Amherst, and it ain’t water! To paraphrase canned Heat, I’ll some up my thoughts on this great band thus “I’m going where the water tastes like weed (or sounds like Sore Eros), jump in the water and stay stoned all the time.” (Eric Baylies)
If you’d like your latest recordings reviewed, send hard copies to T Max/ The Noise, 40R Highland Ave, #219, Salem, MA 01970.